One for the future: poizon
The fourth installment of our "One for the future" series covers Valentin "poizon" Vasilev, who has made a name for himself in Bulgaria this year with Bpro and Windigo, and is looking to continue to make waves in 2019, when he will get to attend the Europe Minor.
On June 21 2017, through this series, the world got to know more about Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov, then a 17-year old wunderkind still making a name for himself in the Bulgarian scene. Since then, he has become a crucial member of the current No.7 team in the world, NRG, earning an HLTV MVP medal after helping his side to win IEM Shanghai. And there is a new Bulgarian kid on the block ready to follow in CeRq's footsteps.
poizon's story began back in May 2016, when he attended Game Ninja in Sofia. The main event was won by Bpro, the team he would eventually join, but he was there for the 1vs1 tournament. The youngster had been playing the game since he was five years old, starting with CS 1.5, but it had been a casual journey up until then, and he had never been to a LAN before. The rookie won the 1vs1 tournament and began competing with semi-pro teams.
The Bulgarian's transition to the professional scene happened after his squad's qualification for Let's Play Winter, a national LAN event that took place in December 2016. Even though his team lost in the grand final, poizon met some of the big names in the Bulgarian scene, including Nikolay "pNshr" Paunin and Hristian "shEMETA" Spasov.
Impressed with poizon's performance at the event, Bpro wanted the youngster in their team and quickly convinced him to join their ranks. He averaged a 0.84 rating across his first 12 maps, with Bpro losing seven of them. "I didn't have confidence in the beginning at all." says poizon. "Everything was new to me." Still, his performances improved massively at OMEN ComicCon Bulgaria and e-Arena Plovdiv—the first two LANs he competed at with Bpro. They finished 3rd-4th at the former and won the latter, with the youngster averaging a 1.30 rating over eight maps.
poizon ended his first year as a professional player with a 1.03 rating after playing 149 maps. He certainly wasn't setting the world on fire but he had done enough to show that he belonged to the upper echelon of Counter-Strike. However, he would go to impress everyone in 2018, when he cemented himself as one of the most exciting upcoming talents in the world.
To begin the year, Bpro attended the ESL Southeast Europe Championship Season 6 Finals in Bucharest, Romania. poizon averaged a 1.28 rating across five maps and helped his team secure the trophy with an immense performance on the last map of the grand final, posting a 24:10 score, a 103.5 ADR, and a 1.87 rating. Throughout the tournament, poizon had 35 AK-47 and 30 AWP kills, demonstrating his flexible and robust play style.
After Yanko "blocker" Panov left Bpro to join Windigo in June, poizon's team struggled to qualify for events and could only win a handful of online competitions. Individually, he was still putting in great performances, and this caught the eye of other teams. Amid interest from Windigo, poizon got benched by Bpro and went on to unilaterally terminate his contract at the end of October.
poizon found himself facing much better opposition after joining Windigo as they competed in the ESL Pro League. However, his first bullets for his new team were fired in the second open qualifier for the Europe Minor. In the round of 16, he top fragged against cats, ending up with a 1.51 rating. Following a comfortable match against Valiance in the quarter-finals, poizon demolished Tricked to book Windigo a place in the closed qualifier. The Bulgarian prodigy averaged a 1.83 rating and a 102.1 ADR against the Danish opposition, with his two clutches also playing a huge role in the victory.
Fittingly, his next match was against the number one team in the world, Astralis; it was as if Tricked had called their big brother to take care of Windigo. Facing the player he has always idolised, Nicolai "device" Reedtz, poizon held his own as Windigo played out two very closes games , losing just 16-13 and 16-14. In the Pro League, the Bulgarian player averaged a 1.15 rating across 14 maps and showed signs that he can hold his own against top-level opposition.
After averaging a 1.32 rating at the two LANs he attended with Windigo—ESL Southeast Europe Championship Season 8 Finals and BGW Invitational—poizon was ready to play in the Europe Minor Closed Qualifier. This campaign was crucial because one of the goals Windigo had set when poizon had joined was to qualify for the Minor.
The competition had a double-elimination format, but Windigo didn't even need to play the lower bracket, thanks to poizon's strong performances. Their first game was against ENCE, who were 14th in the world at the time. That day poizon came to the server to feast on some Finnish food, and he got what he came for, leading Windigo to a 2-0 victory with a 1.56 rating in the series.
Next up was Valiance, who suffered the same fate as ENCE, losing 2-0 after another incredible performance from the explosive Bulgarian wunderkind, who racked up 49 kills to book Windigo a place at the Europe Minor. poizon was the highest rated player in the closed qualifier at 1.59, topping the charts over Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut and Jere "sergej" Salo — two players who have been featured in the 'One for the future' series in the past.
The youngster has shown that he is capable of stepping up in big occasions, but the Minor will be a different ballpark, with spots at the IEM Katowice Major on the line, and he is aware of it. "Playing at a Minor was one of my dreams," he says. " I don't have any expectations for it because there will be a lot of good teams there, but we will fight until the end with everything we've got to reach our goals."
So what is it that's special about poizon? The number one reason is his flexible playstyle, which makes him a big asset in all rounds and economic situations. He can switch seamlessly between the AWP and the rifles, which is best highlighted in this 1vs4, in which he wins the round on the stairs on Mirage with a combination of great movement and aim using two weapons. He is also a force to be reckoned with in pistol rounds, especially on the CT side.
Another aspect of poizon's game is his composure in clutch situations. The 20-year-old has a 62% success rate in 1vs1s, and it is not a rare sight to see him pull off multiple clutches in a single game, as he recently proved against ALTERNATE aTTaX by winning three 1vs2s in a row. Not only is he good at clutching, he consistently gets entry kills and has a 57.8% success rate in opening duels. According to one of his current teammates Kamen "bubble" Kostadinov, poizon boosted everyone's confidence with his determination and ability to open up rounds.
poizon certainly has the skill to climb up the food chain; anyone who has watched him, even for a short time, can tell you that much. But talent alone isn't always enough to survive at the top level. Nikola "NK4Y" Radushev, who played with poizon during the early stages of the youngster's career, was impressed with his mindset and work ethic, which is why Bpro decided to sign the player at the start of 2017. His current teammate bubble agrees, saying, "I haven't known him for a long time, but I know that he is very quiet and calm. When he sets a goal for himself, he is willing to put in the work and hustle."
A blend of hard work, confidence, capacity to use multiple weapons, calmness in clutch situations, and the ability to get opening kills makes poizon one of the players to watch next year. 2019 will be his greatest challenge yet as he will attend the Europe Minor and the WESG World Finals, while he will continue to compete in the ESL Pro League. These LANs will give us a much clearer picture about poizon's potential as he will take on some of the best teams in the world.